Make the Most of Your Suffering
We recently sent out an email in conjunction with our series with Dr. Michael Easley and Joni Eareckson Tada. The subject line asked the question, “Will you let God use your life when you are suffering?”
That prompted a question from a viewer: “Do I have a choice?”
Yes. You do. You can choose not to be used by God. It won’t (necessarily) make your suffering any worse or any better. But I can tell you from personal experience that choosing to allow God to use you does make the suffering easier to bear.
When I was undergoing cancer treatment a few years ago, Dr. Ankerberg started asking me to write encouraging notes to friends and ministry partners who were dealing with terminal illnesses. My first thought was, “I do NOT want to be Ankerberg’s terminal illness expert!” But as I obeyed the Lord and began encouraging others, I found that my response to my own cancer began to change. I began to see that, regardless of the outcome, my cancer was having a positive effect. It gave a measure of meaning to what I was going through, and took my focus off myself and what I was dealing with.
The apostle Paul recognized the same thing when he wrote (2 Corinthians 1:3-5):
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.
Does it take away the suffering? No. But I learned sweet lessons about God that have stayed with me ever since.
Tim Challies has written an excellent article in which he says, “Suffering never comes our way apart from the purpose and providence of God and for that reason, suffering is always significant, never meaningless.”
One passage I thought about a lot during my treatments was Romans 5:3-5:
We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
And, of course all the verses about “rejoicing in
suffering.” I remember praying, “God, couldn’t there be some
other way? I want to grow in my Christian life, but can’t I do it some other
way than dealing with cancer?” But that’s not the way God ordained it. And when
I trust in Him, and endure patiently with His strength, then I am able to trust
that He will bring meaning to all the hard things I have to endure. He’s just